"This is a historic occasion for the Montana National Guard," said Maj. Gen. Randall Mosley, as hundreds of spectators, including tribal veterans adorned in eagle feather war bonnets, looked on inside the Blackfeet Community College.
Gopher also was honored during a name-giving ceremony in which tribal spiritual leaders presented her with her great-grandmother's name, "Good Victory."
"This is a very appropriate name because today she has accomplished a good victory," said Blackfeet Tribal member Tom Thompson.
Marvin Weatherwax, one of the tribe's cultural leaders and a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, presented Gopher and Lott with eagle feathers.
"This is the highest award we can give," said Chief Earl Old Person. "Let this eagle feather be your guide as you make the next step in life."
Seated in the audience were dozens of Gopher's relatives, including two uncles who each served 25 years in the U.S. Air Force.
"From day one, everything she's done in life has been done at 100 percent," said Myra Magee, Gopher's mother.
Gopher, 29, a registered nurse, joined the Guard in 2001 in search of a challenge and an opportunity to serve her country, she said.
"In a short period of time she advanced through the ranks," Mosley said.
Lott, whose uncles and grandfathers have served in every branch of the military, is the first female in her family to enlist in the military. Her oldest daughter, who recently graduated from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, is keeping on with the family tradition.
A distribution platoon leader for the E 145th FSC, 163rd Infantry Battalion in Helena, Lott said it was an honor to return home and recite the oath given to Gopher.
"This is the feel-good part of my job," Lott said. "This is home and it's so comfortable."
Lott's uncle, Smokey Henricksen of Browning, said his niece's military service is inspiring to many young people on the reservation.
"We have a lot of kids here who are really lost. Carla grew up here and they may see what she's accomplished," Henricksen said.